Everything You Need To Know About Calatheas- The Mysterious Moving Plant

"Calvin! I got this Calathea delivered yesterday and today the leaves are standing straight up! ... Like it looks stiff and looks like it's dying, I want a refund." 
This is a message I get a lot, often followed by 153.5 miss calls at 8PM : ) I love you guys... 
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Anyways! Calatheas (some of which are related to prayer plants) are very interesting and somewhat mysterious plants, in this article we'll cover the mechanisms behind these self moving leaves, why they die so easily, and how to keep them alive!

"Calatheas... Prayer Plants... Apples... Oranges... Bananas???"

If you're also confused about the naming, and afraid that plant people will criticize you for using it wrong (which they totally will), here are a couple articles that would help: from Gardeningknowhow and from Mylittlejungle
Basically Calatheas and Prayer plants both belong in the same family "marantaceae" (sweet lord if some corrects me for using " " one more time).
But prayer plants are generally known to be more noticeable with their leaf movements and wee bit easier to care for than the Calatheas whereas Calatheas has more different leaf shapes and vibrant colors...
Many mislabel the two, and if you're interested in learning more about the labelling, read the above two articles.
For our purpose, let's just call it Calatheas (when I should be saying prayer plants, bite me) : )
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"A magician never reveals their tricks, but we know how Calatheas move their leaves."

Yea but the plants don't have muscles, how can they just move?
Well to explain this through simple terms, basically the plant's "pulvinus" (just think of this spot as their muscle), are made up a special set of cells that swell due to turgor pressure and shrink according to their circadian clock (think of this as their schedule). Through that, the plant is able to make visible movements throughout the day.
This movement is scientifically known as "Nyctinasty movements" and is a response to light.
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"So WHY exactly do they move their leaves?"

Well there are only theories around this question, it's not 100% sure as to why the plant folds and fan out their leaves. But many think it's the plants long history of trying to protect themselves, or the plant wanting to fold thier leaves and allow excess water to roll down from the leaves so fungus doesn't develop on their leaves.
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"Why. Are They. Such. DIVAS!?"

Yea, I agree, they're very hard to care for, and that's because of their unforgiving nature. The Calatheas are the Mariah Carey of the plant world, meaning if you don't give them what they want, they will have a quick, dramatic, unforgiving reaction, unlike something like a peace lily, or pothos, which will look dying one moment, and perfect after a thorough watering. They are so picky due to their highly sensitive roots. When too much water builds up, there is a lack of oxygen, suffocating the roots and quickly killing them. You will know if your calathea has root rot if the roots are a dark black/brown color, instead of a yellow/tan color. 
To avoid this and keep your plant healthy, you need to provide it with the correct amount of water, light, humidity, potting medium and pot! This is why you need to know the specifics of parenting a calathea plant!
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"Here's how to keep them alive!"

Enough blabbering about who the calatheas are, get to the juicy stuff, I want to know how to take care of my Calathea!! Well, alright then, here you go!
All varieties of calatheas have their inidividual needs, but as a family, here's a general rule of thumb in caring for them:
Watering: Water with distilled water or rainwater as calatheas tend to be sensitive to hard water and build-up of chemicals in the soil. Aim to keep the soil consistently moist, but not wet or soggy.
Light Requirements: The calatheas are flexible when it comes to lighting. They can thrive in lower light to indirect bright light. Although they will grow healthy in lower light, they may not be as lush/full as they could be in a bit more light. Be sure to not place in direct sunlight as this can give your plant sunburn, scorching/browning the leaves.
Humidity: Calatheas prefer high 50-60% humidity in order to thrive! This is KEY to calatheas. You can increase humidity with a pebble tray underneath the plant, by grouping your plants together (especially similar plants) or purchasing a humidifier. Misting plants is not recommended as it really doesn't increase humidity, and can actually promote harmful diseases due to build-up of moisture on the stems and leaves of the plant!
Fertilizer: Calatheas will look best with an occasional douse of standard houseplant fertilizer in the growing months (spring, summer, fall). Be sure to follow the directions on the fertilizer package to make sure you give the proper amount and don't overfeed/fertilizer burn your plant!
Temperature: Calatheas prefer warmer temperature in the 65-80℉ range. Anything above or below will harm the plant!
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Now, don't go and take this advice as a "one size fits all" type of deal for any variety of calathea, as I said above, they all have their individual preferences, but this is just a baseline to go off of! It is best to research the variety you have and see what is specific to them so you don't have them having a "Miley, what's good?" moment when you finally bring home the plant you've wanted for so long! 
Here are the Calatheas we have in stock and their individual care tips:
 
It’s scientifically known as the Calathea ornate and casually known as the Pinstripe Plant. Native to South America, the Calathea loves bright rooms and high humidity but can get accustomed to medium light rooms. About a foot and a half tall and one foot wide, this compact, dark emerald stunner commands attention in any room with its interestingly striped foliage.
 
 
 
It thrives in high humidity, warm temperatures, consistently moist, but not wet/soggy soil, low to indirect bright light and will grow up to 2 to 3 ft. tall indoors. This makes them great for small spaces of any lighting level! Over time this plant may drop some leaves, but don’t be alarmed, this is just a natural occurrence in the plant's life cycle.
 
 
It thrives in high humidity, consistently moist soil, low to indirect bright light, warm temperatures and will grow up to 2 to 3 ft. tall indoors. This makes them great to place just about anywhere in your home as it can handle all different levels of lighting! A bathroom or kitchen is a good option since it loves humidity!
 
 
The Orbifolia enjoys medium light, high humidity and well-drained soil. Although beautiful, these plants require a moderate amount of attention to keep their gorgeous leaves happy! Because they are tropical, most homes are too dry for them. If your Orbifolia starts to get a little crunchy, try adding a humidifier to the room. Give them enough TLC and you might be surprised with a flower! 
 
The Setosa thrives in high humidity, warm temperatures, consistently moist, but not wet/soggy soil, medium to indirect bright light and will grow up to 3 to 7 ft. tall indoors. This makes them great to place in a brightly lit spot in a high humidity room such as a bathroom or kitchen! Over time this plant may lose some of its lower leaves, but don’t be alarmed, this is just a natural occurrence in the plant's life cycle! If it starts to get a bit leggy, prune back the longer growth and it will promote new, more compact growth!
The Rattlesnake Calathea thrives in high humidity, consistently moist, but not wet/soggy soil, warm temperatures, low to indirect bright light and will grow up to 2 to 3 ft. tall indoors. This makes them great to place just about anywhere in your home, especially a small, dimly lit area!
 
 
 It thrives in moderate humidity, warm temperatures, consistently moist, but not wet/soggy soil, medium to indirect bright light and will grow up to 3 to 3.5 ft. tall indoors. This makes them great as statement plants in a brightly lit corner, or foyer! Over time this plant may lose some of its lower leaves, but don’t be alarmed, this is just a natural occurrence in the plant's life cycle.
 
 
The Leopardina thrives in high humidity, warm temperatures, slightly moist soil, medium to indirect bright light and will grow up to 2 ft. tall indoors. This makes them great to place in a small, brightly lit spot in your home or office! Over time this plant may drop some leaves, but don’t be alarmed, this is just a natural occurrence in the plant's life cycle. 
 

It thrives in high humidity, warm temperatures, consistently moist, but not wet/soggy soil, medium to indirect bright light and will grow up to 2 ft tall with a spread up to 3 ft. indoors.  This makes them great to place on a desktop, bookcase, cubby or small nook in your home that is well-lit, but doesn't get direct light. Over time this plant may drop some leaves, but don’t be alarmed, this is just a natural occurrence in the plant's life cycle.

 

The Roseopicta thrives in moderate to high humidity, consistently moist, but not wet/soggy soil, indirect bright light and will grow up to 1 to 2 ft. tall indoors. This makes them great  to place on a desktop, bookcase, cubby or small nook in your home that is well-lit, but doesn't get direct light.


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